Digested read: did it, type one fun! Who knew? I could probably improve my time next year, but I don’t think I want to, why lose yomping time on the hills when you are having such good fun? Added bonus wins included securing the best race photo of all time and hanging out with parkrun royalty. It was a good day out. Thank you Dig Deep people.
The biggest surprise of all, is how relatively fine I feel today. I fully expected to be broken post the 12 and a bit mile off-road run but apart from being shattered I’m not especially stiff, no blisters and best of all ….. drum roll…. no chaffing! Didn’t expect to be writing that the morning after the reckoning of the day before.
So rewind for those of you who weren’t there or haven’t been concentrating. Last weekend was the Dig Deep Series of races out in the Peak District. Lots was on offer from the seriously hardcore 60 and 50 mile ultras, a 30 mile hilariously named ‘intro’ ultra on the Saturday, and then the more traditional 10k, 12.12 and new inaugural children’s Felly Fun Run on the Sunday. Because ultra runners are hardcore and enjoy being cold and uncomfortable they can even camp overnight if they wish. Mere mortals can rock up on the Sunday and enjoy the in-barn catering and register under cover for the shorter, but equally scenic offerings.
In a post parkrun euphoria of running endorphins I decided to sign up for the 12.12 Dig Deep trail event just a few weeks ago, as part of the Vitality MoveMore #mysummergoal challenge. Blame the enthusiasm of the Sheffield Hallam parkrun Run Director on the day for that. Saying that, I got off relatively lightly, others around me are having to do Norway fjord marathons and win their age categories for The Trunce and all sorts, way more ambitious goals than mine. I was counting on just rocking up at the start of the 12.12 and then putting one foot in front of the other for as long as it would take. Aaah, it’ll be fine… I never said I’d take the giraffe though, even I have my limits. Poor Geronimo Sky, her legs aren’t made for the rough terrain of Higger Tor, it wouldn’t be fair. And if there was an emergency, I don’t know that Mountain Rescue are tooled up for giraffe rescue, it might end badly.
Apart from having to forgo the joy of running with a companion animal which was obviously a massive down side, I did secretly want to do the 12.12 this year, but didn’t think I’d be strong enough to take it on. Don’t let on about this, but having done the Dig Deep Whirlow 10k in 2017 I did actually have a fantasy of returning to do the longer distance this year. The nice people at Front Runner told me after the event last year, that you don’t need to navigate for the 12.12 which had been my primary concern as my sense of direction and navigational skills amount to nil. Once I knew this, then I’d fondly imagined as it was a whole year away I’d have trained to such an extent I’d be a lean, mean running machine 12 months on. Trouble is, I didn’t really do that training, months went by and it was all a bit of a distant memory, it seemed a ridiculous idea, pointless to try … until the parkrun push for summer goal setting. I coudld pledge to do that! What’s the worst that could happen? My endorphin swamped mind asked laughing in the face of reality. Suddenly I was in! Anyways. turns out, I didn’t need to navigate (not in my control) but hadn’t achieved the body and performance makeover I’d have like. (Well, it’s really hard, you have to run lots and stop comfort eating, who can keep that up for months on end?). The upshot was it was quite good to be nudged into entering, and having done so, my ‘conscientious if not keen’ mantra kicked in and I started getting miles on the legs, familiar on the hills and kit testing every sports bra that has ever been marketed. I even had a bash at a strategic taper… it didn’t go well.
Finally, the day dawned. Too late for excuses and further training. Bring. It. On. Oh you want to know more about the course? Well the blah de blah of the Dig Deep website details all the race routes, and the blurb for the 12.12 says:
The route covers some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK. At around 12.12 miles the route takes in some of the finest trails in the Peak District. There is roughly 633 metres of ascent and whilst there are no monster climbs the continued hilly nature of the course earmarks this race as a tough one to complete.
The route has been chosen because of its stunning scenery and the tough nature of the route. Whilst most of the route is on good tracks and Public Rights of Way it also crosses some tricky terrain where navigation skills may be needed.Whilst developing the race we have worked closely with local landowners and the Peak District National Park Authority to ensure that the race is sustainable and avoids sensitive areas. For this reason there are some strict route restrictions in place on some areas of the race. Please follow these wherever indicated.The route will be marked in most areas but in the event of poor weather some navigation may be necessary. Sport ident dibbing stations will be in place along the route – each of these must be visited, failure to do so will mean disqualification from the race.As well as the 12.12 mile race there will be several other races starting and finishing over the weekend.
There is also a map, I bought one in advance for £3.50. It did motivate me to do some recces, but I would describe it as ‘illustrative’ rather than ‘instructive’. I did a lot of asking other people and heather bashing before I fathomed my way round. Not an issue on the day, it was extremely well-marked, but heaven help the ultra runners in search of a dibbing station if they were reliant on that. The tease is that it looks all colourful and lovely, but is of little practical assistance. Forewarned is forearmed people, do your homework.
So, Sunday morning dawned. Bright and crisp, it didn’t look like rain, but it did look like it might be hot later which for me is not so good. Oh well. As usual, I was up ridiculously early to have my porridge and go through my lubing up rituals. I am a relatively recent convert to vaseline, pretty much everywhere. It’s messy – and potentially hazardous if the vaseline saturates your socks and you are on a lino floor – but very good at stopping blisters and chafing. I slather my feet, back of my bra strap and under-boob area with abandon. It takes quite a bit of contortion to access all areas, but this is not a time for skimping. Them as who suffer from similar running related affliction will know both the necessity for preventative action and the associated drills. Had I but known there was a volunteer on the registration desk apparently brandishing a tube of body glide I might have used that outside assistance, but as it was I didn’t need it. I don’t know what she charged, but understandably you might expect certain crevices to attract a premium fee. Price worth paying though if you’d been foolish enough to turn up lube free.
Hmm, on reflection, that might not be body glide, it might be a dibber – either way she looks pretty pleased to have it doesn’t she? Even so, be cautious in how you approach her to find out if she pops up again at registration next year… Could be awkward otherwise, send someone you are willing to sacrifice ahead of you to check.
Incidentally, whilst on the subject of body glide, (yes we were), did you know they come in women’s and men’s packaging? I was initially outraged by this, presuming the only distinguishing factor between the two was the tyranny of bright pink packaging for the ‘girls’ and blue for the ‘boys’. Don’t get me started on my fury at pink everything or I’ll never finish this blog post before entries close for next year’s Dig Deep Peaks. However, apparently they have different constituent ingredients. I’m a bit dubious, but presume the ‘for men’ probably consists of a cocktail of Lynx, Old Spice and puppy dog tails, whilst the ‘for women’ is Impulse-infused sugar and spice and all things nice. The packaging is extensive but doesn’t actively disclose whether I’m right on this point. You pays your (eye-watering) amount of money and you takes your chance. I am still to be persuaded it would be a sufficient upgrade from vaseline to make the purchase. Not when it’s as pink as all that. It’s probably not as messy as vaseline but I remain sceptical, or is it a cheap skate? I get those words confused…
I arrived early, and headed to Whirlow Farm – the Sunday events were all fund-raisers for this project by the way, as were the Friday night talks. I was turned back from the farm car park by a hi-viz marshal and sent back up to the official field car parking. There was supposed to be a marshal there, but he hadn’t been in situ when I went past and was hot-footing his way down the hill as I went back. The carparking sign had also mysteriously disappeared. Never mind, they were on it. A cheery rotary club volunteer directed me up the hill, and another one waved me into a spot promising he wouldn’t let anyone park in front of me so I’d be able to get out again. Well, not absolutely no-one, they’d have had to have almost a field a car to achieve that, but I’d be able to get out again. There was loads of parking, and despite my fears it was OK, not too muddy for my very non off-roady and elderly, albeit low-mileage, Toyota.
Then a scenic hike through the farm to get to registration. It was a bit before 8.30. The registration tables were already open, and I got my number, a dibber and a T-shirt. Elsewhere volunteers were being briefed on whatever it is they get briefed on. I had about eight precautionary pees (bring your own toilet paper people, it was running low) and then rehydrated with a coffee from within the barn.
The coffee was really good, though I’m a bit dubious it came from the coffee plantations of Sheffield as the signage seemed to claim ‘Steel City Blend’ or something. As an added boon, I got to chat with some awesome volunteers who were supporting the Felly Fun Run and we were able to share running tales as we waited for the start of the junior event. For carnivores there was a bacon bap BBQ in full swing, just down from the ominously empty and echoey pigsty. Personally, I wouldn’t. Not sure if the pink pig with the floral tribute was in memory of the previous occupant of said pigsty but I fear not. I very much doubt it’s marking an actual grave. I just don’t think pigs that live in that sty end up buried. In fairness, Whirlow is a working farm, so this is consistent with their mission and I’m sure their animals fare a lot better than most in the human food chain.
Absorbed by companionable chit-chat, we were nearly late for the Felly Fun Run! My one gripe about the 12.12 is that it clashed with my junior parkrun fix. The Felly Fun Run was pleasing substitute. There were two races, slightly different routes for two age groups. Hang on, let me get the Felly Fun Run blah de blah – there is even a map:
The inaugural Front Runner Felly Fun Run will be run as part of the Dig Deep Series Weekend. Taking place before the adults 10k and 12.12 races on the morning Sunday 20th August. There will be a shorter route for younger runners and longer route for older runner. The route will be made up of the amazing trails in and around Whirlow Hall Farm, the Limb Valley and Castle Dyke playing fields.
- 8-11 years old (MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY AN ADULT) – 1.6km with 50 metres of ascent
- 12-16 years old – 2.3km with 95 metres of ascent
Both routes will start in the field opposite the main farm building, head up towards the start of the adult races and through the gate, down the path towards Whirlow Hall Crescent & Ecclesall Road South. Before reaching the road a right turn is taken cutting over to the Limb Valley, just below the fishing pond. From here the main path is followed as it climbs gently…..
8-11 year olds will follow the yellow flags for ~600 metres before turning sharply right up the steep path, negotiating a style at its summit then crossing the rough grassy field before tackling second style and turning left back up the path for 200 metres to the farm and finish line.
12-16 years old continue up the Limb Valley for an extra 300 metres as it steepens, following ***** coloured flags. Just after passing the left turn for Whirlow Hall you tackle the behemoth of a climb up the steep and never-ending steps heading for the Castle Dyke playing field. There are 2 styles to negotiate at the top of the climb before opening the legs out through the farm field to reach and turn right onto the main bridleway running down from the plateau which is the Castle Dyke playing fields. A flying finish is a must as you plummet back down the farm and finish line.
I don’t know why there is a blocked out expletive in the route write-up. Or possibly the flag colour was being held back to be a surprise on the day? Bit of feedback for the organisers, the flags were lovely and everything, but I don’t think it merited quite the big reveal on the morning. Also, I thought all the flags were orange, but who knows in this strange new world where paint colours such as ‘crushed childhood dreams’ and ‘shipwrecked skies’ are supposed to be meaningful. Granted I did just make those names up, but I bet if I don’t immediately copyright them they’ll end up in a Farrow and Ball paint catalogue this time next year. Check back in August 2018 and we’ll see.
So my new tail runner buddy sprinted off to the start, her partner off to point the way round on a style. I went to watch. It was really lovely. It was a small but perfectly formed event which bodes well for future years. There was a friendly briefing, and the older children – all of whom looked pretty competitive lined up first. The timer was on hand and soon they were away, at a very impressive sprint. I was going to say ‘athletes in the making’ but that would be a disservice to their already significant running prowess. Thankfully for the tail runner she was tasked with following round the younger age group. They also gathered for awf. Nail bitingly the tension mounted as the start was delayed due to the timer being on the phone to their stock broker or book maker or mum or something similarly important – and therefore unavailable for race timer duties. However, eventually his attention was regained the cry went up and the stampede started. I must be either really sleep-deprived or hormonal at the minute, but I genuinely find it moving watching juniors run. It is running as it should be. They seem to move with joy, without inhibition and with a natural, effortlessness to their gait that grown-ups on the whole can only dream of. Why everyone doesn’t volunteer at their local junior parkrun to get this weekly inoculation against cynicism each Sunday I can’t imagine. If you don’t already do it you are missing out dear reader.
Then we trooped round to the finish, the juniors also get to sprint through the arch and rightly so. They also got fabulous medals, bespoke artisan creations that will no doubt be future collectors items as this was after all the inaugural event. The finishers fair flew round, and it was exciting to be at the finish. The tail marker had to double back to sweep a stray runner for some reason, but all ended happily I think. It was great. Yay!
Then my new best friends romped in as the sweepers and that was it. First race of the day done and dusted. I’d already had an adventure and the whole day still ahead!
So there then followed ‘the gathering’. This was an hour or so when numbers swelled, Smilies mustered (other running clubs are available). Pleasingly, I also espied a junior parkrun marshal buddy, and we were able to humour and entertain one another by posing for shots whilst hoping we wouldn’t be mowed down by returning juniors. Yeah, yeah, so my commentary is a bit out of sequence here, strictly speaking this was during rather than following, but what are you going to do about it. Shoot me?
Smiley herding is quite hard though. Not so much herding cats, more like picking up mercury with a fork. I had a number of aspirations for the day, from ‘not dying’ through ‘not crying’ to ‘try and get in a Smiley team photo’. My previous success rate for this has been lamentable. Whilst it is entirely possible that my club mates go to great lengths to avoid being photographed with me, they have been spared trying to take evasive action by simply taking most group shots immediately post-race. The trouble is, their post race quick snap and then home for a restorative bath and cake or whatever, is usually taken when I’m still hours away from the finish line. This time, I saw an opportunity to get us together pre-race. As an added incentive to achieve this, we had some mutual glory by association due to the presence of parkrun royalty. Imagine how chuffed Mr P S-H will be to get into a snap with us by dint of being one of the rare Spammers allowed a pass on such occasions (That’s Smiley Paces And Men). Also brilliantly (my the planets aligned for me today), whilst my little camera couldn’t cope with the bright sunshine on our collective moon-white countenances, the ‘proper’ photographer stepped in to do the honours at the same time. Thank you Mr Mick Kenyon of Racing Snakes for taking the initiative there. Bucket list moment for me times two. Not only am I now in a club photo so they can’t sack me, I am also in the company of the great man himself. I could even Photoshop it so it seems to be just the two of us but even I acknowledge that would be a bit creepy. Particularly as I was (once again) too star-struck to actually initiate conversation with him and open up a conversation like a normal person with basic communication skills might have done. Even so, I’ve not been that excited since I got Jon Pertwee’s autograph at a local school fete when I was about 10 (he will always be ‘my’ Dr Who), that reminds me, where is that signed event flier that is to be auctioned on eBay to fund my retirement? I’m sure I still have it somewhere…
I was going to put just the decent quality group shot in this blog post, but I like to think there is comedic value in the ‘compare and contrast’ exercise of juxtaposing the two. See if you can distinguish which is which. Clue: it’s not hard, but if you are stuck, the Dig Deep logo is on the official photographers offering if that helps. There isn’t a prize for guessing right I’m afraid, apart from low-grade smugness, but I hope you will enjoy at least that. Aren’t we all lovely? Collectively, and individually. Go us!
To be quite honest, at this point I’d got the T-shirt, and the ‘post race photo’ so it did cross my mind to just call it a day there and then – I could always get someone else to dib in for me if I really wanted a time. Then again, I was here now, so might as well finish what I’d started.
So what could top that? Well, lots of lovely Smilies milling around, sunshine, and being tooled up for an awesome day of running still to come. Some people might only be running an hour, but I was pretty confident I’d get a full day of felly fun.
Time then seemed to accelerate, and the next enrichment activity was the pre-race briefing. Delivered with some gusto and not at all ‘incorrect use of the dibber’ shaming by the compère. We were told about the signing – really good, mostly flags but some paint – by farmers’ preference. The little flags are a potential risk to livestock, cattle will try to eat them, the paint is biodegradable but will linger a week or so. Only one dibber. ‘And of the 279 say participants, 278 of you have the dibber correctly positioned round your wrist, one of you, who I wont name, but could be a woman runner… from Smiley Paces … has it on their ankle – might be interesting if the dibber is fixed up high‘ Apart from a brief moment of paranoia that this would be me, it was entertaining. Anyway, it was acceptable banter because it was an experienced smiley elder who had done this, and she could let her legs do the talking by storming round the 10k leaving pretty much everyone else for dust. I won’t name her, but just coincidentally include an action shot of her in the mash-up that follows. That seems appropriately understated. ‘Look after each other‘ was the final sentiment expressed to send us on our way, and a fine one.
The kit requirement was reduced to just a windproof jacket. I was wishing I wasn’t laden with everything as there were water stations too. Then I figured I have practised with all this stuff and I did once run out of water so best to have spare. It’ll be ‘proper’ running if I go laden with baggage, and also a handy get-out clause for any required post-run justification of DNF or slow even by my standards finishing times.
And that was it, next thing I knew, the twelve twelvers were in the start funnel and away we went. AND I remembered to start my tom-tom. Always an auspicious start to a run.
The start is a bit brutal, straight up hill, but I was glad to have both recced this before and done the Whirlow 10k last year as it didn’t panic me quite as much, I just stayed well back and took my time as the field spread out. Pleasingly, a fellow Smiley and last-minute on-the-day entrant elected to yomp round at my speed. I’d given my speech along the lines of that’s fine, but I’m doing my own stop/start thing, so you’ll probably dump me early on, but in fact to my amazement it worked ok. Knowing where you are going definitely makes the course feel more manageable. It was also genuinely shorter, as we didn’t have to keep doing massive detours due to cattle congestion around gates and styles.
The first marshal we saw had his flag out. Not a euphemism, an actual flag! We were only 500 metres in, but I though this merited a stop for my first photo of the day:
If it was intended as a dire warning for what lay ahead, no-one took any notice. Incidentally, I’ve since heard that other people aren’t in the habit of stopping to take photos on their way round in a race. How bizarre. Don’t they want to stop to fully absorb their surroundings en route? Might as well be on a treadmill otherwise. Imagine doing a whole ultra through a veil of blood, sweat and tears with never a pause for either a picnic or a view! You don’t even have to imagine, you can do it all yourself next year, and trust me, my way is more fun.
So we did a brief bit of Ringinglow Road and then sharp left over a style and through a couple of fields. One used to have cows but didn’t today (phew), the next was a ploughed field. There was a bit of queuing over the styles, but you could yomp on in-between if you don’t mind running up hill through a ploughed field. Then as you went over the summit, you descended down some steep, wooden steps into Limb Valley. For me, that descent was the scariest part of the whole day. It was very steep, and I clung onto the handrail that was there for part of the way down, and then picked my way down watching the other runners disappearing into the distance.
Once we were in the woods, I found my Smiley Buddy waiting for me, and we ended up in a group of about five women of similar pace. Another Smiley who is also a Brutelles so not to be messed with, and two women running together, one of whom was especially springy and energetic. It was like running with a sheep dog as she kept shooting ahead and then coming back to herd us along. It was grand, quite companionable. I don’t really run up the Limb much, but it was lovely, I prefer the woodland compacted leaf mould to the ‘improved’ gritted paths, but then again it does make it more accessible. This section went more quickly than I expected, and, we didn’t even get caught by the 10k runners at this point. I’d fully expected to be taken down by a stampede of runners as the front of the 10k lapped us.
At the top of the valley, another marshal. A known one. Yay, hugs and photo ops, and then the 10k started to approach. It’s good watching the faster runners, and a measure of my running prowess that rather than being discouraged at being caught I was just grateful I’d made it up that far before I was.
Onto the road, this was the only road crossing of the day. We made it to the base of Lady Cannings and then on up quite far towards the first water station. As we did so, the 10k runners started to overtake en masse. It was actually really fun seeing some familiar faces and being able to cheer them round. In fact, at times today I felt like a sort of roving cheer leader, only with less cartwheels and pompoms. It was inspirational seeing the speed merchants charge by. Great marshals were on hand to point, clap and share chit-chat too. This running malarkey is quite fun sometimes, you should try it.
From here, it was a sharp right into the plantation itself. I never did find the correct route on the recce, but it doesn’t matter, this part is fun. All squidgy under foot, lovely trees, head high bracken and a sense of being in another ecosystem altogether. Periodically we moved to the side to give way to other runners, and it was especially fun when we were able to tell the women runners where they were in the finish line up, even more fun to see some fellow smilies storming round. You hear about ‘the loneliness of the long distance runner’ and the personal mental strength it takes to go on long trail runs. True I suppose, but being at the rear of the 12.12 was actually super-social because there was loads of distraction and enrichment through interacting with other runners. At this point it was the front of the 10k field, but later on it was the front of the 12.12 storming home as we were still heading out. Also, there was a photographer in the woods (he got everywhere, appearing ‘as if by magic’ seemingly from nowhere like the fancy dress shop owner in Mr Benn). This was a good first chance to practice the ‘seen a photographer’ pose which is obligatory in all running settings. Fortuitously, in these parts we have had years of training in handling this sort of situation, due to a diligent team of volunteer photographers who are an almost ever-present feature at Sheffield parkruns – particularly Sheffield Hallam parkrun. (Thanks especially George). The quest for the perfect running shot remains the holy grail for many runners. Frankly, given the choice between a new PB or a flattering and impressive action running shot it would take super-human competitive spirit to go for the former in my view. Not even a tough call. Anyways, here are some random ‘what happened in the plantation shots’ including an unknown good gym guy who, in my view, has totally nailed the photo pose, by looking cool rather than either manic or marginally self-conscious as he runs by. Impressive. Also some Smilies, because they are lovely, and some Graves Junior hi-viz heroes, disguised in Strider kit.
You emerge from the plantation onto the grit path and the heather expanse before you. It was breathtakingly beautiful, so obviously we had to stop to take photos of the that. Then more runners came by so we had to cheer them on for a bit, it was quite busy. A little further on I saw a fellow woodrunner out with his dog and a mate, and then the impressive sight of the first 12.12 runner on his way back. My he was seriously fast though, I mean seriously. Minutes ahead of the second man.
Off the roman road, quick wave and photo shoot of the gate marshals and into the ‘proper’ felly bit. Boulders, and gritstone, and puddles between heather. I love this. We had to pick a route to some extent as it was a bit technical, but then once you hit the highest point, it was more of a scamper down. The recces had helped me feel a bit more confident tackling this, a few weeks ago I’d have just walked it. Also I did do a fell-running course with Front Runner, only made it to one because of a knee problem but it was really good, and made me braver at jumping from boulder to boulder. Basically, this video shows what it felt like running downhill, though I personally was running too fast to be caught on camera, ahem. We did start to meet quite a flood of 12.12 runners though. On the plus side it was a hoot cheering them on, especially as they were having to run up hill at that point whilst we were running done, so it looked way harder for them than us apart from the fact they were nearly home and we had yet to meet the half way point. Minor detail.
Our descent took us to the base of Burbage and another friendly face, we were fair speeding past so shouted greetings and agreed that rather than double backing we’d save the sweaty hugs of greeting for the return loop. She took some ace photos though. Good spot, and again, really good course signage. It would be quite an achievement to get lost on this route it really wood.
The next part was a lope along the road at the bottom of Burbage. I had planned on running this, but my running buddy (just my Smiley mate now, we’d somehow pulled ahead of the other three) pointed out we ought to eat something really. I just had a mouthful of my Chia protein bar. I haven’t cracked what to eat at all. It sat in my stomach a bit, and I felt slightly nauseous and didn’t want to eat any more. It seemed to do the trick though, but I had to walk for a while whilst everything settled. As we were walking, tigger buddy bounced past, and then before I knew it, we were at the little stream crossing by the bridge, waving at more marshals and traipsing up Higger Tor. En route we passed some people using remote control cars. I thought they were amazing, my runner buddy was seemingly nonplussed by my interest. Fortunately, as I get older I get increasingly disinhibited and asked if it was OK to take a photo. Post fifty I really have little dignity left to bother to try to hang on to, so sometimes the direct approach works well (apart from when I’m star struck, obviously).
Clamber up, and then there’s a down, a flat and another climb up to get to Higger Tor ‘proper’. I was still unsure how navigation would work, but as we summitted (is that even a word, I mean I know it’s become common to use it, but it is an ugly use of the English language is it not?) the hi-viz team came into view. One was in possession of a dibber box. It would have ended badly had she not reminded us to actually make use of it. They sort of waved us in the general direction of the ‘best descent’. Honestly, it wasn’t as good as the route down on my last recce, I did a section on my arse, but at least we ended up where we were supposed to, and injury free, which was by no means a given based on my previous experiences of checking out the route.
There is a fun down hill bit, I was cautious on the steps, but then as we neared the base of Carl Wark, joy of joys a fellow Smiley offering hugs as well as directional pointing and encouragement at the next intersection. Yay. Gotta love a strategically located Smiley.
We yomped onwards and bogwards. The paint patterns continued to direct really well, there was even some spray painted bracken at one point which was a bit surreal. The paint was almost luminous, it looked like a radioactive spill in parts. This was indeed a boon to navigation, but I really hope it does get washed away speedily. In any even we yomped through, avoiding the worst of the wetlands. The temperature did drop though. On a serious note, although I didn’t need my windproof, you have to recognise that had I gone over on an ankle at that point you’d definitely need something to put on to stop you from getting cold given we were nicely wet with sweat by this point. Down to the little bridge where more marshals waved us upwards, back onto the grit path and yay, back to friendly hi-viz marshal who we’d sped past earlier. It is so heartening seeing familiar faces. We took advantage of the selfie moment, and she also offered a date. Which I took because I knew I needed something but couldn’t face the thought of the Chia bar. Pleasingly, she also provided health and safety instructions, warning me it had a stone within. I wonder if that’s the kind of helpful and important detail that was covered in the marshal’s briefing earlier in the day? That date saw me through, so seems I didn’t need as much extra fuel as I though, but then again, I wasn’t out for anything like as long I was on some of my recces, maybe it really is time out rather than physical exertion that saps my reserves, which seems bizarre, but could be true for me anyway.
From here, it was basically homeward bound. Just a yomp up the hill, across Houndkirk, quick photo op and cheery support from marshalling smiley (thanks for the encouragement and heather backdrop snaps too)
then back on the Roman Road and down to the plantation. Fortunately though, there was still a final treat in store. My running buddy was a highly effective early warning system for photographers as canaries are to smoke in the mine. Actually, that might not be the most flattering of analogies, but you get the gist. She sees them a mile off, and muttering a warning, it gave us time to sort our hair and hoik up our knickers and things before we were in range. I can’t lie, when we saw him on the roman road, we actually made a strategic decision to walk for a bit so we’d have the energy to run past as we got closer. But then, in a moment of shared genius, we decided to go for The Jump Pose, and on three, launched ourselves. Unsure if he’d have been able to do our efforts justice, we then did again, more than once. Worth it? Totally. Also, for the record, I think the first photo is the one that come out best – where ‘best’ is most comedic value as opposed to necessarily flattering. I cannot adequately express my delight at the finished versions. That’s it, my perfect race shot. It is true that I maybe need to work on forward rather than upward momentum to improve my times, but reference previous comment about ‘which would you prefer? A new PB or a good running photo?’ Quite. I give you dear reader, The ‘seen a photographer’ photo sequence:
I know, the camera loves us (in its own way) we are clearly awesome, and more importantly having a blast out there. Running (and jumping) is supposed to be fun, otherwise it is truly pointless.
From here, yomp back to the first water station, where I was glad to take on more fluid, I’d emptied my bottles. I gulped it down which you probably aren’t supposed to do but there was only a couple of miles to go, and pretty much downhill from there. Well I say that, I seem to always erase from my mind the uphill bit as down the Limb Valley there are most definitely significant ‘undulations’ not to mention the sneaky uphill finish. Sweaty marshal hug (me that was sweaty not her) at the style before carrying on down the valley.
There were still three behind us, so although the marshals were sort of packing up as we approached they still cheered us by and stayed in post. Later some caught up with us as they ran back after the final few finishers had come through.
Finally, we were on the little dirt track that takes you round the back of the event barn and a sharp right down through the finish funnel. Pleasingly, a little crowd of supporters had hung on to cheer us in. Lubricant Woman was doing the finish dibbing and although there was no medal, there was the glory of finishing and feeling immortal. My running buddy overshot the dibber so I got in first by skidding to a halt, but only a second in it. Anyway, it was never about competition for me, only about completion. We all stayed to cheer back the final few. One of the supporters somehow managed to gain temporary possession of a Les Brutelles shirt. Those women are super-human. You can see she is stroking it quite covetously, but – and no offence here – that’s as close as she’s likely to get to membership of that elite hardcore club. Still, at least she could inhale the perspiration from a garment worn by one of them, that’s being close to greatness, which is a start. I don’t know why Lubricant woman is apparently eating for two.
So that was that. Pleasingly, even though the event was pretty much packing up around us, the coffee place was still open, so we were able to have a caffeine fix and a debrief. And you know what? We’d all had an awesome day. It’s true you know, the hard thing is deciding to do something in the first place. Once you commit, it’s just a question of making it happen. What seemed impossible not so very long ago was done. Yay. Don’t we look happy and animated at the end?
The non verbal cues of chairs being stacked up made us muster the energy to depart. We headed off to be reunited with our respective cars. On the way out we passed the fell running guide who I think had led the course signage. I asked about route navigation for the longer routes, they are on their own out there apparently, but Dave does offer courses. I’ve been put off these because I am so slow I’d be scared I couldn’t keep up with the running bit, but it seems if we can get a group together then we’d just go at whatever pace suited. I’d like to do that. Also I need to because, this is the shot when I said goodbye to my running friends and went in search of my car…
poignant isn’t it… only to have to then run and catch them up, as I realised we were actually parked in the same place and I was going in completely the wrong direction to find mine. That navigation and orienteering course can’t come soon enough for me.
Oh, you want to know the results? What a very linear and literal interpretation of whole point of these events. Still, fair enough, the full results for the 2017 Dig Deep series are here for them as want to know.
In terms of how to improve my own time for next year. Well, for me I’m not sure the time it takes to get round is actually the point. More time out on the hills is more fun to be had having adventures in the peaks, why would I want to deliberately cut short any of that? However, I can think of a few distinct areas where I know I sacrificed a bit of running time:
- For starters, I have to concede I lost some time when stopping to take photos of your friends in the races who have either lapped you from behind having caught up with you on their 10k run, or because for the 12.12 they are on their way back across the heather when you are still on your way out. On balance though, that was a lot of fun, and I got some great shots, if I say so myself, sooooooo don’t really want to miss out on that. Same plan for next year
- Hugging marshals at every marshal point also takes time. However, I really don’t see how you can possibly avoid that, nor would I want to. It’s important to share the love, especially as some of them would have liked to have run but couldn’t because of injury, tapering for some other event, whatever. Plus, I think given how long I’ve made them stand out in the cold waiting for me, it would be rude not to show some appreciation on the way by. I wouldn’t want them to think their selfless flirting with potential hypothermia wasn’t properly appreciated. Also, in Sheffield the Round Sheffield Run has habituated the running community in these parts to always stop and natter to the hi-viz heroes on the way round. It’s a hard habit to break – especially as they often they give treats as well, bananas and stuff. I got a date going round this time, and lots of water.
- It’s quite time-consuming when you have to pose multiple times for the official photographer in search of the perfect ‘race pose’ photo, on the other hand, so worth it. Nope, same tactics for next year for sure. Ref PB v good race photo dilemma outlined above. A no-brainer really.
- Also a bit of a time vampire, was being inspired by faster runners coming through. Sometimes the path is narrow so you have to give way anyway, so why not shout random encouraging things at them and encourage them by with some extra-curricular whooping. Once you’ve stopped anyway, lingering a bit longer so cheer them through is no great hardship, and quite a lot of fun. I might have told quite a few men they were ‘winning’ when actually it might really have been true for only one of them. Actually the first man was stonking ahead way clear of the field and storming it, he certainly was running to win. But the rest weren’t going to double back and remonstrate with me in a race – were they? I found I could count to about third man, and then it got a bit guestimatey. I figured the men would know their placings pretty well nobody would have seriously thought they were winning if they weren’t as they were in sight of one another, plus even if they did have a moment of thinking they were first in line, maybe that would inspire them! With the women runners, they were quite spread out, so my counting was quite meticulous. It was fantastic sharing the good news with those front runners. Yep, would still do that for sure.
- As is always the case, I’ve very much enjoyed looking at the post-race photos, and they are revelatory in terms of my running technique. Turns out, I might possibly have used a bit too much upward propulsion when running at the expense of some potentially more helpful (time wise) forward momentum. There was a lot of bouncing going on, and not just because of the limitations of my sports bra. Addressing this could be critical to my future performance speeds. Then again, surely it’s a good thing to practise your running drills when you are out and about? It keeps your technique strong, otherwise what’s the point of going to woodrun on a Thursday to do my training drills? (Rhetorical question, they do excellent coffee in the Woodland Coffee Shop). Accelerate are always trying to make us jump up really high, they’ll be pleased with me for taking that on board on my own initiative. Also, it turns out it’s quite fun leaping for joy. I’m not forfeiting that either.
Incidentally, if you want to check out your own running form, then there is a wealth of very fine photos captured by Mick Kenyon Racing Snakes who captured not only the 12.12, but 10k, Felly Fun run and the ultras too. Yay!
So, basically, I’m happy with the choices I made – I just take off a couple of hours from my ‘official time’ to allow for that and basically that means I came first anyway really. It’s enough that I know this in my heart, I don’t care enough to put in an appeal and get the results recalibrated to reflect these points. Also, actually, to improve my performance next year, I might take even longer, and incorporate a power nap up the top. I understand that you can’t over-estimate the importance of sleep to runners according to the keynote speakers on Friday night. If it’s good enough for Sally Fawcett and Nicky Spinks, then it’s good enough for me. I’d have come back fresh as a daisy if I’d had a bit of kip and a bun at the half way point I’m sure. Or if not a bun, I might take some money for the ice-cream van… I’d need to practise that in training though I suppose. Still, good to have options. Worth going to the talks by the way, though that might be another story altogether. I will just say though, that I now know how to get my name in the RNLI monthly glossy magazine. Might come in handy one day, you never know.
So basically, no regrets. A grand day out.
I’ve finally retired my Salomon Fell Raisers though, I’m a bit sad about that, they’ve done me well. No blisters today, and they held up, but their grip is compromised and any cushioning for my arthritic feet long gone. Also Strava says no, so time for them to hit the recycling bin (lots of running shops take them for a running Africa charity by the way, so give them a clean and then drop them off there, rather than binning).
Hope you’ll pick a run from the Dig Deep series and join all the fun next time round in 2018. Go on, go on, you know you want to. Don’t over-think it, it’ll be fine, or not, either way it will be an adventure. See you there!
For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you.
Thanks Dig Deep people, thanks Front Runner folk, thanks Smileys, thanks marshals, thanks fellow competitors, thanks woodrun folk, fellow parkrunners and thanks race photographer too. It took quite a team to get me round. You are all awesome! 🙂